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Center Moriches home steeped in Black history gets NY preservation award

State preservationists said the Mary E. Bell House

State preservationists said the Mary E. Bell House in Center Moriches "preserves a history of black landownership on Long Island during the nineteenth century,"  Credit: James Carbone

A historic Center Moriches home, built by an African American family in 1872, is one of 11 recipients of a 2020 State Historic Preservation Award, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Thursday.

The Mary E. Bell House, on Railroad Avenue, was among historic sites across New York to receive the award from the state office of parks, recreation and historic preservation.

"These historic projects demonstrate the diversity of lived New York experiences since our state's founding," Cuomo said in a news release. "New York is thankful to the dedicated stewards of each site, who provide invaluable support by devoting countless hours to the protection of historic sites for all to learn from and enjoy."

The foundation that operates the lime-green two-story home received the award, "Excellence in Organizational Achievement." Cuomo's office cited the house's role in preserving a history of Black landownership on Long Island during the 19th century. Owner Mary Bell was prominent in her community as a member of Moriches AME Zion Church, according to the news release.

The house is maintained and operated as a historic site by the Ketcham Inn Foundation

Bertram Seides, the Center Moriches foundation's president, said the organization was grateful for the award.

"A lot of work went in to the rehabilitation of the house so that it could be open to the public," Seides said. "This site relates back to the development of a church for freed Black slaves in Moriches."

Mary Bell had raised funds so the church would survive, he said.

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